Tag Archives: 1990 movies

Predator 2 (1990) Review

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Predator 2

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language and sex scenes
Cast:
Danny Glover as Lieutenant Mike Harrigan
Gary Busey as Special Agent Peter Keyes
Ruben Blades as Detective Danny Archuleta
María Conchita Alonso as Detective Leona Cantrell
Bill Paxton as Detective Jerry Lambert
Robert Davi as Deputy Chief Phil Heinemann
Director: Stephen Hopkins

Lieutenant Mike Harrigan and his police force try to hunt down a vicious alien hunter killing drug gangs in Los Angeles despite the warnings of a mysterious government agent.

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I’ve been curious about checking out Predator 2 for quite a while. All I knew about it was that it was a sequel to Predator, only it isn’t as good as that first movie and stars Danny Glover instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger. So I went in fairly blind and I ended up liking it more than I expected to.

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Regardless of if you think it works or not, I think its admirable that Predator 2 is not just a lazy re-tread of the first movie. Instead of taking place in the jungle once again, it instead sets the Predator in the crime filled streets of L.A., I thought that it was refreshingly different when compared to the previous film. In some ways, Predator 2 is just a cop movie with an alien in it, but I thought its fun for that, like its combining completely separate genres. That being said, it can be messy with what it tries to be, and doesn’t quite works as well as the first movie. Plotwise it wasn’t the best, and it can be stop and start with the pacing. There are some other issues, despite the setting change it is in a way very similar to the first movie, and perhaps that works against it. Compared to Aliens where it builds upon the knowledge and events of the first Alien, Predator 2 has a new set of characters, so naturally they have learn about the Predators for the first time, even though the audience knows about it. Whenever the Predator is on screen and when it is facing off against Danny Glover however, it really shines. As such, the third act is particularly great. The movie is very over the top especially with it playing into the many aspects of the action crime movies of the 80s. It is very pulpy and cartoonish with the representations of LA gang wars and definitely falls into being cheesy (even more so than the first movie), but enjoyably so.

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There’s a cast of enjoyable characters here. Danny Glover is on top here in this movie, its like his character was taken straight from one of his cop roles like in Lethal Weapon, cranked up and angry, particularly shining when he goes up against the Predator. There needed to be more from the supporting cast but there are some standouts, including Gary Busey, and a charismatic and fun Bill Paxton.

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Stephen Hopkins’s direction is decent enough, it is well shot and really leans into the gritty city setting. There are some good set pieces, especially one in a subway and the third act. There are some good special effects for 1990, the sound effects are good, and so is the score from Alan Silvestri. It is particularly violent, perhaps even more so than the first movie. The kills by the Predator are gnarly and the movie definitely leans into the absurdity.

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Predator 2 isn’t to Predator what Aliens was to Alien, but I thought it was pretty good for what it was. While the story wasn’t the best, it benefits from being refreshingly different from the original film, and having some solid action sequences and performances. Its an underrated, and if you liked the first Predator movie, I think its worth checking out.

Total Recall (1990) Review

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Total Recall (1990)

Time: 156 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence and offensive language
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid
Rachel Ticotin as Melina
Sharon Stone as Lori
Ronny Cox as Vilos Cohaagen
Michael Ironside as Richter
Director: Paul Verhoeven

Douglas Quaid tries to find the reason behind his recurring dream about Mars. He soon learns that a false memory has been planted into his brain and the people responsible for this want him dead.

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I remembered watching the original Total Recall for the first time ago many years ago when I was younger. I remember enjoying it with all the action, over the top violence, and one liners. More recently I decided to revisit it. Watching it again when I’m much older, it’s even better than I was remembered it to be.

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Based on a Phillip K. Dick novel called We Remember It For You Wholesale, Total Recall is well put together and fun to watch. It moves at a fast pace, there’s a decent amount of comedy and has plenty of quotable lines, in fact some of the best from an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. There’s plenty of parts that are silly and over the top, but there is a real self-awareness to the ridiculousness, so it makes it all the more better. I also was consistently entertained by a story which takes its twists and turns and does its world building in such an effective way.  There’s even a psychological aspect with lead character Quaid not knowing what’s real or not, or who he can trust. As a sci-fi action flick it’s really good, but its even more than that. Director Paul Verhoeven brings his trademark satirical approach to this story, like how he did with Robocop. The satire is loud, in your face and quite fitting. As to be expected especially given this is the 80s/90s, the movie takes jabs at capitalism and corporate greed, but also colonialism.

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The cast are also quite good all round. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the main character of Douglas Quaid in one of his best performances. As usual he is good in the action scenes and the cheesy one liners, but also does a good job at being genuine, and this is one of the few times he isn’t playing the typical hardcore action hero. Some have found him to be out of place in the movie and while I can see that especially given that he’s meant to be playing the everyman, I just can’t imagine the movie without him. He somehow just fits in with the tone and vibe that Verhoeven is going for. Other supporting actors like Sharon Stone and Rachael Ticotin are good, and Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox make for enjoyable scene chewing villains.

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Total Recall is directed by Paul Verhoeven, and he brings a lot of his style and energy to this movie. I really like the cinematography and look of the film, I loved the environments and the production design is great. The amount of practical effects on display are amazing, and most of it holds up today. There are even parts that venture into body horror. The special effects can be cheesy in a late 80s and early 90s way, but I feel like that fitted the overall tone of the movie that Verhoeven is going for. I really like the portrayal of the future, some of the technology can be clunky but even that is endearing. The action sequences are energetic, exciting and imaginative. Verhoeven’s trademark over the top and gory violence is on display and it is glorious to watch. Adding on top of all of that is the amazing score by Jerry Goldsmith.

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Total Recall is a wonderfully entertaining and over the top 90s action sci-fi thriller. The cast are good, the writing is fun, satirical and self-aware, and Paul Verhoeven’s direction and style are amazing. It’s even a strong contender for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best movie yet, up there with the first two Terminator films at the very least. If you are a fan of action and/or sci-fi, I highly recommend checking it out.

Die Hard 2 (1990) Review

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Die Hard 2

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Bruce Willis as John McClane
Bonnie Bedelia as Holly Gennero McClane
William Atherton as Dick Thornburg
Reginald VelJohnson as Sergeant Al Powell
Franco Nero as General Ramon Esperanza
William Sadler as Colonel William Stuart
John Amos as Major Grant
Director: Renny Harlin

When a team of terrorists threaten to destroy an airport and demand the release of the drug lord Ramon Esperanza (Franco Nero), detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) tries to stop them.

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Die Hard was such a big hit upon its release in 1988, and for very good reason. It’s a great action movie that manages to get pretty much everything right, and over 3 decades later it still holds up. A sequel was inevitable and released 2 years after its release as Die Hard 2 (also known as Die Harder). It isn’t anywhere near the quality of the first movie by any means, it is more of the same of the original but just not executed as well. With that said, it was still very enjoyable for what it was.

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The writing is really the key problem with the movie, its not terrible but generally lukewarm at best. It does copy a lot from its predecessor, even the part where it takes place at Christmas. However it skimps on the character moments, themes, and iconic villain. Also while I wouldn’t say that Die Hard is one of the more realistic action movies out there, Die Hard 2 requires a lot more suspension of disbelief. The premise is farfetched, and the movie can get over the top. Not that it’s a bad thing mind you, it’s just that it feels very much like an 90s action movie, whereas the first movie was an 80s action film while still feeling timeless. There is also a lot of convenience when it comes to scenarios that occur, and especially with how John McClane manages to do certain things. Some situations felt totally implausible, even for an action movie. Those are generally its weaker points but on the whole its not bad. In all fairness it does some things quite well. The movie is also well paced and intense, wasting no time to get to the action. Also, there’s the setting at an airport. It certainly is not as claustrophobic as the first movie’s contained setting in the hotel. However it still allows for opportunities for good action.

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The acting all around is good. First of all is of course Bruce Willis reprising his action star making role of John McClane. He definitely helps the movie, his sense of humour, charisma and relatability makes him fun to watch. To a degree he does have plot armour and feels less vulnerable despite often being put through the wringer. However there’s nothing movie breaking, and you still feel it’s the same character who ended the first movie. Unfortunately, the characters other than McClane fall a little flat. The rest of the cast with the likes of Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, Dennis Franz and more do play their parts well enough but stand out less than the supporting cast in the first movie. The villains in particular are quite forgettable. The first movie had a strong dynamic between Willis and Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber, an this movie doesn’t really have that. However the main villains here aren’t terrible, they just pale in comparison to what came before.

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Taking on the Die Hard sequel is director Renny Harlin. There isn’t anything inherently bad about the direction, it’s mostly good. However it isn’t as well tuned as John McTiernan’s work on the first movie, despite them having similar directing styles. On a technical level, it certainly has aged worse than the first movie. There are more special effects used this time and it ends up dating the movie further. That aside, it is technically well made. The snowy atmosphere is perfect, and it really gives the movie a nice Christmas aesthetic that the first movie lacked despite it being known as a Christmas movie. There’s a lot of entertaining action sequences, from chases, to gunfights and fight scenes. The action is certainly larger scale, and give the way for much more carnage and mayhem.

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Die Hard 2 is probably the least talked about movie in the series. It definitely doesn’t work as well as the previous movie, however it is still pretty good, and worth watching if you liked the first movie. The action is fun to watch, its well-paced, and Bruce Willis carries much of the film. As an over-the-top 90s action movie, it succeeds.

IT (1990) Review

Time: 192 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Richard Thomas as Bill Denbrough
Jonathan Brandis as Young Bill Denbrough
John Ritter as Ben Hanscom
Brandon Crane as Young Ben Hanscom
Annette O’Toole as Beverly Marsh
Emily Perkins as Young Beverly Marsh
Harry Anderson as Richie Tozier
Seth Green as Young Richie Tozier
Dennis Christopher as Eddie Kaspbrak
Adam Faraizl as Young Eddie Kaspbrak
Tim Reid as Mike Hanlon
Marlon Taylor as Young Mike Hanlon
Richard Masur as Stanley Uris
Ben Heller as Young Stanley Uris
Tim Curry as Pennywise
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Based on one of Stephen King’s bestselling novels, this is a story told in flashbacks. In a small town, a group of children are terrorized in their youth by an evil force. Thirty years later, when they learn of a new series of child murders, they return to see if they can’t stop it once and for all. Adults now, with success in diverse careers, they still must come to terms with their pasts and with the evil that stalks their New England home town, and their own fears and nightmares.

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With the latest film coming out in a couple weeks, I wanted to check out the ‘iconic’ original movie (which is actually a tv mini series). Having seen some clips and watching some reviews, I had a feeling that I would find this to be an average horror movie which really wouldn’t leave that much of an impact on me. And having finally seen it I can say that it was pretty much what I expected it to be. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good things here, the first half of the mini series is okay, Tim Curry is effortlessly entertaining as Pennywise, the actors who played the kids are good, and the film has some interesting ideas. But it feels really dated, drags at many points, isn’t really effective with many of its scares and the second half is mediocre and is completely anticlimactic. Maybe this movie was impressive for its time, but it doesn’t hold up today.

There are two things I want to mention before going in depth with IT. First of all, I haven’t read the 1000 page Stephen King book of the same name, so I’m not sure how accurate the book is to the movie. Second of all, this tv mini series is made up of two episodes, each of them being 1 hour 30 minutes, making IT a 3 hour long movie. I’ll talk about these two parts separately. The first part isn’t great, it is a little repetitive with its structure, one of the adult main characters in present day gets called about Pennywise returning and then there’s a flashback to when they were a kid, rinse and repeat. Some of the ideas and concepts are interesting and fascinating, but it feels somewhat limited. Maybe because it was a tv mins series in the 90s, it was limited from going all into some really dark and disturbing areas, or maybe it was too early and for whatever reason they weren’t able to do it. There are some aspects that don’t make sense, like Pennywise having no problem killing some kids, yet won’t immediately kill the protagonists whenever he gets the chance. All he does is just gloat and talk about how things float (which at a point is just laughable). I have no idea if these unexplained aspects are explained in the book (I’m guessing it probably is, it being over 1000 pages long), but for whatever reason the mini series didn’t exactly flesh everything out well. Because of some of the interesting ideas, as well as the performances by the actors, the first half is okay.

While the first half was okay, the second half just wasn’t good at all. It’s one melodramatic, boring and disappointing climax to the story. Most of it is just the adult characters catching up on their lives, talking to each other and its hard to care about what’s going on. There are even 2 moments, each lasting at least a minute of these characters just doing something completely random. One involves two people on a bike, the other is just a montage of our protagonists just eating. There was also no tension throughout most of this second half, there was even less tension than in the first part. You never really feel that the protagonists are in danger until near the end of the movie. Pennywise is in the movie a lot less, one of his scenes, the library scenes, is still one of the most entertaining scenes in the entire 3 hour ‘film’. Otherwise I can’t really pinpoint anything I liked about the second part. The reveal at the end was really disappointing. I don’t know if it was exactly like this in the book, but whatever case it didn’t work in the movie. This second half is a step down from the first half of the mini series.

The young actors who play the protagonists in the first half are actually surprisingly good, they have great chemistry with each other and you can really buy them as being friends. They are actually part of the reason that the first half actually works, these actors were so good that I was willing to look pass some of the issues and actually pay attention to what was going on. The adult actors however are very hit or miss, some of them are fine, others really don’t work at all. Also, they didn’t have the chemistry with each other that the kids had in the first half of the mini series. The showstealer of IT is of course Tim Curry as Pennywise, who is one of the best parts of the movie. However, I must point out that it’s not because I find him scary, because really at no point do I ever find him terrifying at all. Yes, Pennywise kills kids and scares some people, but he didn’t leave any impact on me. He’s one of the best parts because of how entertaining he is and how Curry fully embraced the role. There are some moments where he is so over the top goofy that I can’t take him seriously. A good example is a certain scene with him in a library in the second half of the series, just watch that scene and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Pennywise in 1990’s IT works because of how entertaining and over the top he is, sometimes to the point of hilarity. However he just isn’t scary at all.

This film immediately feels dated, from the camera work, to the special effects, to the scares, to the music, to the sound effects, everything feels dated. Some of the sets, particularly in the sewers are nice and work fine but otherwise there’s nothing special. None of the scares work, not even the film’s direction left an impactful scare. I mentioned how there is a reveal that is underwhelming, it was made all the more worse because of how incredibly fake looking the effects were, I won’t give away what it is, but it is so embarrassingly fake looking.

1990’s IT may have been scary back when it was released but it really doesn’t hold up well today. The direction of the film is dated, the story is not always interesting, the second half is a bore and the payoff is disappointing. It’s only effective if you have a phobia of clowns. If you haven’t seen IT, I don’t think it’ll have any sort of impact on you honestly. Yes, Tim Curry is effortlessly entertaining, and there are some cheesy moments, but that’s all. It’s not even a ‘so bad it’s good’ kind of watch, its just mostly a chore. As for the newer film adaptation of IT, I have a lot of faith in it, with the modern effects, darker take, a longer runtime, it has to be at least better than whatever this film was trying to be.

Goodfellas (1990)

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Goodfellas

Time: 146 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence
Cast:
Ray Liotta as Henry Hill
Robert De Niro as Jimmy Conway
Joe Pesci as Tommy Devito
Lorraine Bracco as Karen Hill
Paul Sorvino as Paul Cicero
Director: Martin Scorsese

This film views the mob lives of three pivotal figures in the 1960’s and 70’s New York. Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) is a local boy turned gangster in a neighbourhood full of the roughest and toughest. Tommy Devito (Joe Pesci) is a pure bred gangster, who turns out to be Henry’s best friend. Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) puts the two of them together, and runs some of the biggest hijacks and burglaries the town has ever seen. As he makes his way from strapping young petty criminal, to big-time thief, to middle-aged cocaine addict and dealer, the film explores in detail the rules and traditions of organized crime.

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Goodfellas is one of Martin Scorsese’s masterpieces; from beginning to end, Goodfellas is compelling as it displays Henry Hill’s 3 decades in the life of the mob. Entertaining, interesting and fascinating, Goodfellas is a classic that draws the audience into watching the lives that these people lived.

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The narration in Goodfellas adds a lot to the movie, some movies use it as a gimmick but this is not the case here; we can almost understand Henry with these narrations. With the narrations that he gives throughout, it really feels like you are following Henry on his adventure as a gangster. The film is often compared with The Godfather but they have some differences, one being that this film doesn’t have many likable characters; despite the lifestyles that these gangsters lived, the film doesn’t condone them. Also while The Godfather seems to be about a dysfunctional family who happen to be in crime, Goodfellas presents the gangster characters more realistically and more raw. Despite there being brutal violence here, Martin Scorsese doesn’t glorify it; he puts it on screen and shows it in its’ true form. The differences between the two films are why I like Goodfellas more than The Godfather; the more realistic look on the characters made me more interested in the movie.

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Ray Liotta is really good in this movie; because he narrates throughout the movie, you really feel like you know him as you hear the details of how the mob works. The film mostly is around him and Liotta masterfully embodies Henry as we follow this man through his life as a gangster. Robert De Niro also brings a presence to this movie; Jimmy is someone who has been in the mob a while and you can really get that from De Niro’s performance. Stealing the show however is Joe Pesci, representing a hot tempered person who manages to be funny and intimating at the same time.

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This film is very stylistic, especially with the narration; sometimes the camera freezes and Hill explains something happening or maybe the background of a certain person. The cinematography is also excellent and fits in with the style; an example is the tracking shot from the outside to the inside of a club. (This is now often called the Copacabana shot). The shot lasted for around 3 minutes and is a very good example of the great cinematography that the film has. The soundtrack picked is excellent, especially the piano part of Derek and the Dominoes’ Layla, which is played over a montage. A lot of the style in this movie is used in a lot of great movies like Boogie Nights and American Hustle.

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Goodfellas is so many things; it compelling, engaging, interesting and results in it being one of the best movies of all time, one of the best gangster movies and is one of Martin Scorsese’s best movies. Even though I prefer Casino over Goodfellas, this movie is still undeniably a film for the ages. It’s one that you shouldn’t miss and you should see as soon as possible if you haven’t already.